The tiny travel wonder of Luxembourg, precariously sandwiched between France and Germany at a European crossroads has a woven web of hiking paths that crisscross the country. While the city features excellent historic walks such as the Wenzel Walk, the northern part of Luxembourg offers a tremendous array of walking and hiking options. With maps available from tourist offices and clear signposts with blue triangles marking the paths, hiking is one of Luxembourg’s most popular leisurely pursuits (after all, one-third of the country is forested). And there is no better place to walk than the grandly named Little Switzerland. While there is nothing alpine about this lowland region, the dramatic landscape gives some credibility to its moniker.
Start from the country’s oldest town of Echternach with its sprawling abbey credited to St Willibrord (a wily Yorkshireman who the locals believed cured epilepsy in the seventh century). With little thought over a strong steaming coffee, I selected E1 (see map), a suitable sounding walk of twelve kilometres. After a short but strenuous climb, a nice viewpoint (Troosknäppchen) offers fine vistas of the abbey and town.
The path follows the Müllerthal Trail (the miller’s path named from the numerous watermills that once existed on the river) quickly leading to densely wooded forests, lush verdant valleys and spectacular rock formations. Left over from the Ice Age, roughly hewn rock steps and ladders weave a narrow, twisting path between towering 20 metre high rock walls at times only wide enough for a single file of walkers.
This ancient landscape generates its own steamy microclimate of high humidity producing vegetation unique to Europe with moss coating everything in a carpet of green and ferns sprouting from small rocky crevices.
The trail leads through the evocatively named Wolfsschlucht (the wolves’ lair – top photo) that apparently sheltered wolves in times past. Continuing along a tiny brook, through the Labyrinth and past the giant single rock of Perekop, the trail leads to Hohllay. This is an old cave where traces remain where millstones were cut. Regular performances still run at the nearby amphitheatre, a wonderful natural location for plays, theatre and music.
Turning back along a small creek with tiny waterfalls, the path toured via Zig-zag Gorge (photo below right) and an atmospheric cavern called Räuberhöhle (thief’s hideout – photo left) before tracking the Sûre River back to Echternach.
It seems an accident of history that this tiny country exists as an independent country with its history of battles and wars. Indeed, the castles that litter nearly every rocky outcrop, gorge and small hill is a strong reminder of how many battles have been fought over the years for this scenic centre of Europe. It is a gift as the feisty and proud population of the self-promoted “Europe’s smallest big country” offer superb trekking through well-preserved forests broken only by the occasional muffled greeting of moien in the strange sounding German-like dialect.
More details available from the Müllerthal Trail website.